Land for harvesting votes

Ever since Modi became Prime Minister of India, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s business has expanded by manifold. Not only his spiritual Yoga business but also his “chemical free” consumer goods  business.

Baba who had claimed his “genuine” Ayurvedic medical products and yoga can cure AIDS and Homosexuality has now become the leading player in whole range of products for home use. It seems the tremendous support Modi got from Baba Ramdev for catching votes is being reciprocated by giving huge chunks of land at big discounts as per this Reuters report.

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A government that fools its citizens by peddling in pseudo science

Doctor, can I use the new Ayurvedic medicine for Diabetes ?

A patient was  asking me.

Which one ?

The one lauded by our Prime minster .

Oh , you mean BGR 34 ?

Yes.

Then better not.

Anticipating such questions, I had studied the molecule using resources at my disposal.

It is a mixture of four herbs. Individually these herbs had undergone small lab and clinical studies with mixed results. In February the Indian government’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has come out with a mixture of these four herbs in a single tablet amidst great fanfare with backing of just one unpublished study on 48 patients.

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Diphtheria deaths in Malaysia and Vietnam too

Diphtheria is coming back with vengeance  in parts of Asia where it had been well controlled. Malaysia and Vietnam has reported several cases of Diphtheria in last two months along with Kerala state in south India. There has been 5 deaths in Malaysia, 3 in Vietnam and 2 in Kerala. Both in Kerala and Malaysia, adults some as old as 65, are among suspected cases.

All three areas had similarly good control of Diphtheria for several years now , with only a handful of cases yearly and no deaths. In Malaysia and Kerala, religion based superstitions about vaccinations was found to be a major driving factor for poor vaccination coverage and there by reemergence of the disease. In Vietnam too, the propagation of myths about vaccines has reduced its acceptance.

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Medical students battling anti vaccine attitudes

This week-end saw medical students of Kerala’s medical colleges on a campaign trail. They were at the epicentre of anti vaccine campaign in the state, in the rural areas of Malappuram District.

They were at Tanalur, a place near Tirur. People here are fairly prosperous and well-educated. But they feel vaccines are bad for their kids. Here the percentage of children fully vaccinated was well under fifty percent. The families here used to close their doors at health workers who come to their homes urging them to vaccinate.

Some believe naturopath quacks when they say taking vaccines and preventing “harmless” diseases is anti nature. Others believe their political leaders who say vaccines are an imperialist conspiracy to produce sterility in the third world population. Many believe their religious scholars who tell them that Allah is giving complete protection from the womb itself and humans trying to usurp him is not only absurd but against “god”. There are also other allegations against vaccines like they are produced from pig meat and they result in paralysis and mental retardation. In several families, women who wanted their kids to be protected by vaccines had to face tough resistance from men.

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Sacred water of Railway station

Instead of autobiographical writings like this that encourage superstitious beliefs, I wish Indian schools taught this article by Dr Abraham Kovoor.

Abraham Thomas Kovoor, a renowned  rationalist of South Asia, was born and educated in India. After his studies he worked as a teacher in various colleges in Sri Lanka. He was instrumental in forming Rationalist association of Sri Lanka. He campaigned widely in both India and Sri Lanka, exposing as frauds many god men and para normal phenomena.

A.T.Kovoor

A.T.Kovoor

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Teaching superstitions

This Sunday evening I was helping my son with his lessons. In his Malayalam language textbook there was a portion from the autobiography of the former Indian President, Late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Dr Kalam, before assuming the rather ceremonial post of Indian President, was a scientist and a science administrator at Defense Research and Development Organisation and Indian Space Research Organisation. He was closely involved in India’s space programme, development of missile technology and nuclear weapons.

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A petition to stop training in homeopathy !

Most people in India think homeopathy is accepted as science because Government is strongly promoting it.

Students in India who want to become a doctor write a tough entrance exam. Those who get top ranks usually choose  Scientific medicine while those who miss out by a mark or two choose to become a doctor in Ayurveda or Homeopathy. The students and their parents are made to believe that all are valid scientific ways of treatment. Once they become homeopathy doctors they will have to practice and defend homeopathy.

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Lethal mix of pseudoscience, religion and conspiracy theories

Media in the state of Kerala, India, has reported prominently another vaccine preventable death in the state. A 15 year old boy from Malappuram district was the latest victim of the lethal mix of religion, conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. He died yesterday due to diphtheria.

Diphtheria outbreaks and deaths are not a big news in rest of India. India has 10-15 times more Diphtheria cases than any other country in the World. But it is news in Kerala state as it has comparatively much better health care record. Here in Kerala the diphtheria cases and thereby deaths are extremely rare in the last 10-15 years. Average annual incidence of diphtheria was around 10 cases in the whole of the state. But last two years saw a sudden spurt of cases from Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. There were also two deaths last year.

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Off to Himalayas for enlightenment

Traditional Indian way of becoming a Jnani or a man of wisdom ( yes it was always a man) was to go to Himalayas to meditate. I am also going to do that this week. Beware of very wise articles in coming days -:) .

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Ancient Indians thought anyone who have gone to Himalayas and did meditations for months to years knew the answers to deep questions of life. Of course the difficult journey, tough climate and harsh life that make you confront directly with the reality of nature should make you wiser in some way.

But the concept of abandoning life and getting “real” wisdom by meditating in Himalayan caves became a real hindrance to development of Indian society. Instead of respecting those artisans, craftsmen, farmers and physicians who gain knowledge by studying nature and doing experiments while they work, those who do yogic meditation became more respectable and powerful. The ultimate goal of life became attaining moksha and the way to attain it was to meditate. India abandoned experimental falsifiable evidence to “evidences” gathered from thoughts based on personal mental experiences and crude logic. Texts written based on such experiences began to be known as “scientific” and real science was left behind. Thus there came a stand still in development of science and technology for more than 1000 years.

Sad part is even modern India, living under a myth created of past glory, is giving more importance to anecdotal pseudo science than evidence based falsifiable real science.